Get some creative play on your scheduleIf you’ve been reading this series for a while, you’re probably starting to appreciate that the Muse—that flighty spirit who bestows ideas and inspiration upon us—is kind of a rebel. She’s generally not a huge fan of meetings, schedules, agendas, to-do lists, five-year plans, and formulas.

You know, all that grownup stuff.

In my many years as a writer, I’ve learned that the secret to keeping my own creative juices flowing often lies in tossing my sensible, goal-oriented, business-y persona aside and giving the Muse the things she wants most. 

One of those things is play.

Yes, one of the best ways to unstop a creative logjam is to set aside whatever you’re working on and engage in some pointless creative fun. While on the surface it looks like you’re just goofing off, you’re actually creating new neural pathways that help liberate your brain from delivering the same-old-same-old output.

So the next time you’re stuck on a tricky piece of content, shut down your computer, set your standard-issue ballpoint pen and legal pad aside, and treat your Muse to a little creative play.

A few ideas for you:

Release your inner six-year-old

Get yourself a big set of crayons, markers, or colored pencils, grab a blank piece of unlined paper, and start doodling. You can give your creation a theme (“my best childhood memory”) or just start giving shape to any ideas that are hanging around your noggin. Don’t worry about “quality” or accuracy—just loosen up and have fun with it. (This is also a terrific group exercise for kicking off brainstorming sessions … but no “critiquing” allowed!)

Play “Connect the Words”

This is a favorite of mine that can be done anywhere:

  • Grab a piece of paper and pick two random nouns out of the dictionary.
  • Write one word on the left side of the paper and the other on the right side.
  • Now figure out how to connect them.

For example, if you pick “duck” and “stock market,” your notes might look like this:

  1. Ducks waddle.
  2. “Waddle” kind of sounds like “waffle.”
  3. “To waffle” means to go back and forth.
  4. The stock market goes back and forth … or up and down, depending on how you look at it.

Yes, it looks totally goofy, but give it a try anyway. I think you’ll be amazed at how this simple game can help loosen up your thinking.

Do something badly on purpose

The Muse loathes many things, but I think perfectionism is right up there among her top peeves. So give your perfectionistic persona a swat on the nose by deliberately doing something badly:

  • Write the worst poem you can come up with.
  • Make the worst drawing of a cat, tree, shoe, or chair that you can—extra points if it’s completely unrecognizable.
  • Come up with the world’s worst Facebook post (offline, though, please!).
  • Take some really bad photos … then paste them into Photoshop and see how much worse you can make them.

Get the idea? Give creative play a try and let us know how it went in the Comments—we’d love to hear from you! 

(Photo Credit: Arjan Almekinders via Compfight cc)